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Texas school shooter entered Robb Elementary unobstructed, police say

Law enforcement officers look at a memorial Thursday following a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Brandon Bell
Getty Images
Law enforcement officers look at a memorial Thursday following a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Updated May 26, 2022 at 6:24 PM ET

Texas law enforcement officials told reporters Thursday afternoon that the gunman who killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary Tuesday entered the school "unobstructed." Earlier reports that the shooter exchanged gunfire with police were incorrect.

"It was reported that a school district police officer confronted the suspect that was making entry. Not accurate," Victor Escalon, Texas Department of Public Safety regional director told reporters at a media briefing. "He walked in unobstructed initially ... he was not confronted by anybody."

Details surrounding the shooting are few and far between as law enforcement continue their investigation, Escalon said. Reporters at the press briefing repeatedly asked Escalon what happened between when the shooter crashed his car outside the school at 11:28 a.m. and when he entered the school 12 minutes later.

Escalon said the gunman exited his vehicle. He opened fire at two witnesses who were at a funeral home across the street, Escalon said, before he scaled the school fence. The gunman then began to shoot at the school from the parking lot before he gained entry to the building through a door believed to have been unlocked at the time, Escalon said.

Law enforcement is still investigating what unfolded during the 12 minutes between the crash and the shooter entering the school.

The White House announced that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Uvalde Sunday.

What else we know so far as of Thursday

The gunman shot his grandmother in the face and posted on social media about it 15 minutes before fleeing and driving to Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a Wednesday news conference.

"Anyone who shoots his grandmother in the face has to have evil in his heart, but it is far more evil for someone to gun down little kids," he said.

Investigators have not officially determined a motive behind the attack, but say the gunman sent three online messages on Tuesday warning about his plans.

People mourn Wednesday as they attend a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Allison Dinner / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
People mourn Wednesday as they attend a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

He first wrote that he was going to shoot his grandmother, and then that he had done so, Abbott said Wednesday. He said about 15 minutes before he reached Robb Elementary that he was going to shoot up an elementary school, though did not specify which one.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone later clarified that those messages were "private, one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred." Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — is cooperating with law enforcement's ongoing investigation, he added.

CNN and The New York Times report that the gunman allegedly sent a series of messages to a teenage girl living in Frankfurt, Germany, whom he had met online. She provided screenshots to both outlets, though NPR has not verified those messages independently.

The 15-year-old – whom the Times identified only as "Cece" — said the two began talking on social media earlier this month.

The gunman told her on Monday that he had received a package of ammunition that would expand on impact, she said, adding that she asked what he was planning and was told it would be a surprise. She said he had also shown her — on a video call, of which she provided screenshots — a black bag that appeared to hold many magazines of ammunition and at least one firearm.

The Times says that the two spoke on a video call on Tuesday morning and that the gunman — who was wearing all black — said he couldn't tell her his secret until his grandfather left the house. He later texted her that he was waiting for his grandmother, who he said was "on the phone with AT&T" about his cellphone. Some 15 minutes later, he texted that he had shot her.

Cece told The Times that she asked a friend in the U.S. to contact the authorities after hearing about the shooting on the news, and spoke regretfully of the delay.

"Maybe I could've changed the outcome," she told The Times. "I just could never guess that he'd actually do this."

Former congressman Beto O'Rourke interrupted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's remarks

As Abbott prepared to close his remarks at Wednesday's news conference, former congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke interrupted the governor.

"You are doing nothing," O'Rourke said. "This is totally predictable. You're all doing nothing."

A variety of responses can be heard in the background, including, "sit down," "you're out of line and an embarrassment" and "let him talk."

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said, "I can't believe you're a sick son of a b**** to come to a deal like this to make a political issue."

O'Rourke, who is running against Abbott in the state's 2022 gubernatorial election, then left the auditorium.

He spoke to media outside the auditorium about Abbott, saying, "The only thing he did was make it easier to carry a gun in public. And he bragged about the fact that there would be no background check, no training, no vetting whatsoever. He talked about 'this was evil.' The only thing evil is what he continues to do to the people of this state."

Two family members of one of the victims killed in Tuesday's shooting at Robb Elementary School comfort each other during a prayer vigil in Uvalde, Texas, Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Jae C. Hong / AP
Two family members of one of the victims killed in Tuesday's shooting at Robb Elementary School comfort each other during a prayer vigil in Uvalde, Texas, on Wednesday.

Mourners gathered at a community vigil

The Uvalde County Fairplex typically hosts happy celebrations like quinceañeras and weddings. But on Wednesday night, the arena became the site of an emotional vigil.

Roughly 2,000 community members gathered to remember the victims, to offer prayers and to comfort their neighbors.

Ministers from three local churches spoke to the overflow crowd, leading them in prayers for the victims, their loved ones, the city and all those affected by Tuesday's tragedy.

Texas Public Radio reports that it was standing room only at the vigil, with a constant stream of residents, law enforcement officers and journalists entering the arena.

Volunteers offered water and soda to attendees, while golden retrievers were on standby to soothe mourners. Community leaders attended, as did Abbott, O'Rourke and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

At one point, "Amazing Grace" played while attendees observed a moment of either silence or prayer.

Morning Edition co-host A Martínez watched as a woman made a beeline for a crying teenage girl headed toward the exit, then hugged her wordlessly for over a minute. They didn't seem to know each other, he said, but at that moment it didn't matter.

"That's what we do here in Uvalde, we hug and we love," said the woman, Lea Rentch. She described the community as tight-knit and small — her own grandson goes to school in Uvalde but wasn't at the Robb Elementary campus that day.

The grief of Uvalde residents was palpable and overwhelming, Martínez said, adding that the vigil was unlike anything he'd previously covered.

"It was impossible not to feel how vulnerable and violated this community is right now," he said.Listen to more of his reporting here.

NBA team urged fans to call lawmakers over gun control

At a Wednesday night playoff game, the Miami Heat basketball team urged fans to call their lawmakers to advocate for gun reform laws after the school shooting in Uvalde.

"The Heat urges you to contact your state senators by calling 202-224-3121 to leave a message demanding their support for common sense gun laws," the stadium announcer said as the team geared up to play the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the teams' playoff series.

The team, which was facing the Boston Celtics, held a moment of silence before the announcement.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie
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Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.